Payment transactions: Trends for 2021 in the travel and mobility sector: Freedom of choice, security & risk management

Payment transactions are changing around the world - in the truest sense of the word. The tourism and mobility sectors have been particularly affected by this. Indeed, they have had to work hard to catch up in recent years and continue offering their customers an optimum, flexible and secure payment experience. In the coming year, current obstacles such as the coronavirus pandemic are likely to play more of a minor role. The tourism and mobility sectors will then need to focus on reactivating customers and repositioning themselves in the market. However, improvements to payment services can help companies operating in these sectors emerge from the slump caused by Covid-19 stronger than ever.

Customer wishes are changing in the travel industry, so companies are having to keep pace

As highlighted in a survey undertaken by Sapio Research¹, the payment landscape is changing fast in the travel industry. Millennials, who display different payment habits and preferences when compared directly with the over 55s, are making the key difference here. In its survey, entitled "Frictionless Travel Payments: From Complexity To Competitive Advantage", the team from Sapio Research identified many key issues that are likely to play an important part in the decision-making processes of travel and mobility operators in the coming year. Some of the most important findings are summarised below:
  • Millennials are more likely to book just two months (or even less) prior to travel.
  • Millennials are more inclined to finance their travel in instalments - and are then also willing to spend more overall.
  • On average, millennials use four different means of payment before and during travel.
  • Millennials are more than twice as likely to abort the booking process as those over 55 if they cannot use their preferred payment method at the end of the booking process.

Sapio Research also made a rather alarming discovery among companies in the mobility and tourism sector: some 75% of companies continue to find it challenging/difficult to offer their own customers easy, flexible and constant payment processing. This is precisely where the services of Unzer come into play.

Payment trends for 2021: Although classics are not being completely replaced, they are losing market shares.

An overarching trend can be identified across all sectors: customers are moving away from "classic" payment methods such as prepayment transfers and, in some cases, even physical cards. Conversely, digital wallets and mobile payment solutions are continuously gaining market shares. We also see a similar picture in the tourism and mobility sector, where this trend is even more pronounced during actual travel.However, credit cards continue to dominate for bookings made prior to travel, such as hotels, flights or package trips. This is also down to the providers themselves, who for example block a deposit on a credit card when booking a rental car. While actually travelling, tourists are increasingly turning to mobile solutions, for example in the form of digital wallets on their smartphone or even touch payments on their smartwatch. Cash is clearly losing out because of this - a trend which has been further reinforced by the coronavirus pandemic and the more pronounced hygiene awareness this has brought about. There is nothing to suggest that consumers or travellers are likely to give up the hygiene habits they have acquired in 2020, even if a vaccine is widely distributed in 2021 - particularly when overseas. At the same time, companies and service providers are confronted with the challenge of reacting to the various national preferences. Use of mobile payments, credit cards and debit/ girocards already varies within the EU and is even more pronounced outside Europe. The clientele that travel operators and mobility providers serve, which is by definition international, is quite rightly demanding flexibility in terms of the payment methods offered.

Requirements of companies in the tourism and mobility sector - and their solutions

The survey conducted by Sapio Research defines several key points that already play a key role for companies and will continue to do so in the coming year if they aspire to offer customers efficient payment transactions without complications. These are as follows:
  • Expansion of payment options offered both during online checkout and when shopping locally.
  • Improved transparency thanks to multiple currency conversion options, presenting customers with total amounts in their preferred or trusted currency.
  • Greater trust thanks to integration of proven two-factor authentication processes.
  • Appealing to last-minute shoppers, among other things through cloud integration, personalisation of payment methods and use of open interfaces.
  • Expansion of services that can be booked in advance as a way of eliminating stress for travellers in local dealings during their vacation or business trip.

Not only payment habits, but also travel habits are changing.

Flicking through the last few pages of history books really highlights the kind of change the tourism and mobility sector has experienced in the last few years. Price comparison sites, online bookings and public reviews are all concepts now considered well established. However, trends such as e-mobility or car sharing are still somewhat "fresher". The wide range of local mobility services on offer here, such as mobile scooters or taxi apps, are in particular dominating major European cities from Paris to Rome. Many of these trends are not only well established and unlikely to disappear any time soon, they have also led to customers becoming more accepting of new, innovative payment methods and using their smartphone. Indeed, reaching for their smartphone to unlock and pay for a scooter or alternatively booking and paying for a taxi via an app now seems almost a matter of course for many people. These are the kind of altered consumer habits that will sooner or later also establish themselves in other areas of travel and mobility. A survey² undertaken by AirPlus and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) is even forecasting an almost complete transition to mobile payments during business trips. There are several new trends which can already be identified on the horizon and could potentially become even more important over the course of the next few years. These include "workations", where work is combined with a vacation. This kind of travel, often popular among the self-employed, freelancers and digital natives, requires a high degree of flexibility - which also includes payment methods.

Making the most of new payment trends with a powerful partner behind you

Travel often starts with a desire for adventure, relaxation or new experiences. This initial instinct is then followed by further steps, including planning and ultimately also making bookings. The latter often represents the first major hurdle for travellers - at least when travel operators and mobility service providers are not adequately positioned in this sector. The solutions from Unzer provide companies with the impetus they need for the future, thereby enabling them to make the most of the various local and online touchpoints and offer more channels with more payment methods - all from a single source, secure and efficient. Unzer also offers comprehensive services in and around the field of risk management, including customised solutions for hotels, the restaurant trade and travel operators. Although travel during times of the coronavirus pandemic is a dispensable luxury, this will soon pass. After all, customers used to consider payment flexibility an optional luxury and this has now changed quite dramatically. Even if the tourism and mobility sector is currently still rather cautious, the time has now come for companies to start positioning themselves for a time after the pandemic - establishing themselves as stronger, more secure, more transparent and more flexible than before, particularly in terms of payment processing.

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¹ Source: https://sapioresearch.com / https://www.tourexpi.com/de-intl/news/reisende-fordern-auswahl-transparenz-und-sicherheit-fur-reibungslose-zahlungsprozesse-160656.html, ² Source: https://www.airplus.com/editorial-files/germany/documents/de-en-(language-dependent)/publications/airplus_acte_mobile_payment_white_paper_de_en.pdf